EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Rex Ryan is simply out of answers.
Going back to the ground-and-pound approach on offense that was so successful in Ryan’s first few years as coach, the New York Jets kept running the ball and gaining yards in chunks against the Miami Dolphins.
It still wasn’t enough in a 16-13 loss on Dec. 1. “I feel sick,” Ryan said. “Our guys just played great, for the most part, in a lot of areas. Dang. We can’t buy a win.”
Caleb Sturgis’ third field goal, from 26 yards with 1:57 remaining, gave Miami (7-5) a comeback victory — even after New York (2-10) rushed for 277 yards on 49 carries.
“This one,” center Nick Mangold said, “stings for multiple reasons.”
It was key errors in the second half, primarily on special teams, that sent the Jets to yet another loss in a brutal season that could prove to be Ryan’s last as coach in New York.
“I can’t believe we’re 2-10,” a sighing Ryan said. “It’s a joke.”
The Dolphins remained a factor in the AFC wild-card race thanks to rookie Jarvis Landry’s eight receptions, Lamar Miller’s 4-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter and plenty of defense when the Jets needed Geno Smith to pass.
New York threw only 13 times, fewest in the NFL this season, and gained 49 yards. The usually reliable Nick Folk missed two field goals.
“It’s easy to sit back and say we didn’t throw the ball this much now, but we wanted to run the football against them,” Ryan said. “That gave us the best opportunity to win the game, both on offense and defense. We needed to keep that team off the field a little bit.”
Smith threw for 65 yards on his seven completions, but also was sacked twice for minus-16 yards. “It has zero to do with us not having faith in our quarterback,” Ryan said.
Smith’s final throw of the night was an interception that went off Jeff Cumberland’s hands as Reshad Jones picked it off to seal the win for the Dolphins with 34 seconds left.
“I’ve got to make those plays,” Smith said. “I can’t tell you how hard it is for us to fall short after all we sacrifice every single week. You know, the effort and time spent by every man in that locker room and to fall short every single week, it’s gutwrenching, man.
“I can’t tell you how heartbroken I am,” he said.
The Jets turned back to Smith as their starting quarterback after Michael Vick was under center the last three games. Smith, who came in with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions, was picked off on three straight possessions in his last start, against the Bills on Oct. 26, before being replaced by Vick.
New York introduced the offense before the game — but didn’t announce Smith’s name. Smith said it was his decision not to come out with the rest of the starters, not because he was worried about a rude reception from the fans.
“I just wanted to run out with the team,” Smith said. “I wanted to run out with the guys.”
The Jets’ problems with penalties on special teams hurt them all night — and a holding call against Saalim Hakim set up the Dolphins at New York’s 39 on the tying drive. On the winning possession, backup tight end Dion Sims had catches of 18 and 17 yards. Ryan Quigley had a punt blocked for the second straight game.
“Scratch, claw, bite, kick, whatever you have to do make a play and win,” Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said.
All of that offset a season high on the ground as Chris Johnson had his best performance for the Jets with 105 yards.
After trailing most of the way, Miami tied it on Miller’s run with 10:24 remaining. That brought the loudest cheers of the night; thousands of Dolphins fans at MetLife Stadium braved the wet, windy conditions.
Jets wide receiver Greg Salas got the home fans excited early by scoring on a 20-yard end-around reverse for his first career touchdown.
As New York kept grinding away on the ground — it had 210 yards rushing in the opening half — it also ate up the clock. But Folk missed from 48 yards and Miami took advantage on Sturgis’ 43-yard field goal to end the half.
Sturgis added his 44-yarder to start the second half, and Folk followed with a 45-yarder that bounced off the crossbar and through, making it 13-6.
“Everybody in there’s hurting,” Ryan said. “They’re hurting for each other, hurting for our fans. We’d do anything for a win.”
(DENNIS WASZAK Jr.)